How would you like your life to be in one, five, or 10 years? Do you find yourself daydreaming about future success or are you more consumed by future anxieties? Journalling is not just a powerful way to process your feelings in the present, but it can even help you to create the future of your dreams.
Research has found that writing about your best possible future self can help to improve your happiness, but can it also make your dreams and goals become a reality? Possibly. A study by psychology professor Gail Matthews at Dominican University of California discovered that those who wrote down their goals accomplished more than those who didn’t.
Many athletes use visualisation techniques to improve their performance. They see themselves crossing the finish line, and create a vivid scene using all the senses. They hear the roar of the crowd and the feel of their feet on the running track.
The principle of imagining or dreaming about your future may subtly affect your thinking in ways you may not consciously be aware of and help your dreams become a reality. In one research study, people interacted with their future self via a virtual reality game. Researchers found that those people were more likely to put money into an experiment-based retirement account than those that didn’t interact with their future self.
Writing is a great way to ruminate on your future self as well as letting go of the anxieties that can get in the way of reaching your goals. Here are a few exercises to try…
How do you feel about the future?
Do you have dreams that feel hard to reach? Are you filled with fear about what might go wrong? What thoughts come to you when you consider your future? Write it all down without censoring yourself, even the thoughts that feel negative or scary. You might like to take around 10–15minutes to do this to clear your mind before going onto the next stage. Destroying the writing afterwards, or throwing it in the bin, can be a symbolic way to let go of anything you don’t want.
Your best possible future self
Take 20 to 30 minutes (or longer) to imagine your best possible future self. Visualise yourself and use all of the five senses in your description. You could answer the questions below, and anything else that brings the scene to life:
- What do you have with you?
- What is your job?
- Where do you live?
- What do you do for fun?
- What are the personality strengths or character traits that will help you reach your goals?
Listen to your mind
Has completing these exercises helped you feel more positive about the future? Do you find yourself thinking of new ideas or establishing new goals that will make your dreams a reality?
In the days after completing the exercise, notice how it may have affected your thinking. You might find that instead of falling back on old habits like ‘I can’t’ or ‘it’s not possible for me’, you may create a little mental space that opens up the possibility that your desired future can become a reality.
As you go about your daily life, be mindful of your thoughts. If you find yourself sliding back into negative thinking, then pick up your pen and repeat these exercises.
Writing about your future self is a journalling exercise that you can return to again and again. It can help to shift your mindset if you’re feeling low or when you hit an emotional wall and think that your goals are just too far out of reach. You can do it for the long-term future, but also the short term. For example, you could visualise yourself doing well in a job interview or succeeding at a networking event. The future begins with your thoughts. All you need to do is pick up your pen.
Words: Kate Orson
This article was originally published in Issue 17 – Going with the slow